We are all bad people
Catalogue essay for Woke In Fright, The Substation, Melbourne
You are the newest diaspora artist in so-called Australia, sitting on a zebra print couch wearing a pair of little Uggies, reading with a cuppa of Argentinian mate. The hippies in St Kilda taught you how to make it. It is real exotic. Your fingers—stained with smashed avocado—are scrolling on a screen with traces from your studio practice, which is gaining momentum at the earliest stages of your career. You are reading about a top-tier figure, a very important ‘CALD Millennial’1 in Magazinator: a major arts publication based in Naarm. You met them last week and they warned you that institutions were extractive and eating ice cream too fast would give you head freeze. However, they failed to mention care culture has a problem of abuse. They skipped that part because they noticed the KPI on your back, which they were planning to exploit through impression management strategies later—once you become an unwilling part of their ‘community’.
Woah, things escalated fast in the opening paragraph to emphasise how jarring the truth is: this person you are reading about sucks so hard. They behave like the institutions they claim to critique, which makes them creepy and psychologically dubious, by suggesting a form of projection aligned with manipulation. But if it was not them, someone else would be occupying their place. The writer in Magazinator should have touched on the sinister aspects of communality to make you less vulnerable. They should have warned you that the goody-goody gosh discourse attracts corrupt personalities, since it is a perfect cover-up for self-serving behaviour. That ladder climbers will see your bi-nationality as an opportunity to become international, something they will try to exploit in a one-way street. That diaspora does not equal morality and upholding this condescending fantasy enables deceivers to thrive. But they omitted the fine print because the writer did not know this at the time. It takes a sequence of bitter encounters, intense disappointments, and formative experiences to learn this. Unfortunately, the system encourages a state of naivety, where you can accept mediatised ‘leaders’—with an embarrassingly self-righteous social media presence—as your heroes. Your Personal Jesus, someone who hears your prayers, someone who cares.
Now you begin to appreciate how the infrastructure of the sector fabricates generic figures like this to stand for your interests, issues, and community in Parliament. I mean, The Art World. The process is a bit esoteric since you did not vote for them and it is hard to understand what they actually do. Either way, their blanket existence offers a standardised pathway for you—goals and aspirations (please do not). Unfortunately, they got there by using and discarding others in a quest for grandiosity. You are simply a brick in their weird pyramid scheme.
Right now, you think they are advocating for your deepest wants and needs. Yes, they talk like everything is an intimate relationship, which is an alarming red flag in broad daylight. It is so creepy to hear a stranger say they will care for you, that your body releases a shot of adrenaline (to run at high speed). But institutions confuse the flight response with enthusiasm. Their political campaign—I mean, “prophecy”—sounds like BuzzFeed via derivations of The White Pube and embodies the originality of the Tumblr research function.
It sounds like someone you know because it is an ethereal description of an archetype, something you may call a Diaspora Politiciart. It is a cringey word, like hearing curator nails on a community hall chalkboard. SCREEEEEEE, it hurts so much. Since everything they do is clichéd and art is a means to an end for them, the vaguest critique sounds incredibly personal and specific to them, a phenomenon that fascinates you in a patronising way. You remember this text by Tara Heffernan called Double the care: Philosophy of Care and Care Ethics and Art, where she names ‘a homogeneous set of smug though cowardly creative elites who perpetuate dogmatic rhetoric—curating exhibitions, editing books, and writing reviews that all follow a formula and promote a tactically vague liberal worldview.’2 Although she is referring to a wider Professional Managerial Class, it hilariously encapsulates the Diaspora Politiciart. They hurt more than institutions and bureaucracy because they wear a ‘friend’ costume, only to step over your head later. These are the kind of people that will make you want to bitterly quit art. And quit it fast. Even though they sell themselves as inspirational figures.
It does not make sense, you tell yourself while nodding your head in compulsive denial. They are culturally diverse, hence surely moral. Just like you. They are linguistically diverse, thus conscientious. Just like you. No, no, no, it cannot be! Panic sets in and you look at the name of the writer who typed the article in your hands, searching for answers. Diego Ramírez wrote it. Wait, isn’t that the ArtistWorkeRiter-wanna-be who died earlier this year?
Yeah, after he published a listicle called 10 Reasons Why U Should Try Da New Drug Called Justice @ Woke-a-palooze. It was about chasing that self-righteous high on artist and organisational statements. But it rubbed everyone who uses the word justice the wrong way. Little did he know that power drives politicians, hence they get powerful. The punch line is that people who talk about justice in the arts tend to be wildly unjust. It was a death wish.
Mhmm. One clean job. A quiet murder. Very woke. They smashed his head with a copy of We Will Not Cancel Us (2020) by adrienne maree brown, until his brain splattered on their faces—it was hilarious. They tried to dissolve the body in acid and pour the mix on the toilet to get rid of the evidence. But they were making all sorts of weird mistakes. Like, touching the acid. Their alibi was the best part: he turned into a zombie.
I know all of this because I was there. I am Diego. Yes, I am a ghost now. Look up, I am floating above your head: peek-a-fucking-boo.
*record scratch* (freeze frame) Yep, that is me. You are probably wondering how I ended up in this situation...well, I just told you.
1 Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Millennial
2 Heffernan, T. (no date) Double the care: Philosophy of care and care ethics and art, Artlink Magazine. Available at: https://www.artlink.com.au/articles/5003/double-the-care-philosophy-of-care-and-care-ethics/ (Accessed: November 8, 2022).